Misdiagnosing Fibromyalgia – A Never-Ending Story

Misdiagnosing Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that has been and still is covered under a thick veil of mystery. While just a few decades back it was considered to be of a psychosomatic nature and it was often taken as a form of Depression or Hypochondria, nowadays the most of the specialists in the field agree that it is a real medical condition, with real symptoms which can caused by biological factors, as well as by environment, psychological condition, and so on.

The exact causes of the syndrome have not yet been determined and while there are many assumptions and theories, none has been able to “please” the large majority of the medical professionals dealing with Fibromyalgia.

In between being theories that say that the syndrome is caused by abnormal neuro-chemical levels in the brain and theories that sustain that the cause of this medical condition is related to high number of blood vessels in the extremities, Fibromyalgia still remains a mystery.

Thus, no actual cure has been created for it and doctors can only prescribe adequate treatment and recommend proper alternative methods that will help patients ameliorate their symptoms.

Under these circumstances, diagnosing Fibromyalgia correctly is absolutely essential. However, there are many errors that can be made along the way, especially since there are a lot of symptoms that are common both to Fibromyalgia and to other medical conditions. This article is meant to explore which are the most encountered misdiagnoses in the case of Fibromyalgia and to provide you with enough information on why these errors may occur.

1- Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is a disease in which the joints of the patient can get heavily affected. Most often, the accuse symptoms of pain, redness and stiffness in the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis if often mistaken with Fibromyalgia precisely because these symptoms are frequently encountered in both cases. Other common symptoms includenumbness, shortness of breath, tummy problems, low energy levels, fatigue and sleeping issues).

2- Lupus.  This is not a very well-known medical condition, but its symptoms can be very severe. They include rashes, fever, joint pain, headaches, kidney problems, heart problems, lung problems, swelling extremities, anemia and general fatigue. Out of these symptoms, most will be encountered in case of Fibromyalgia as well.

Treatment will also be focused on treating particular symptoms shown by each patient, but other than this, there are not many common points with the treatment of Fibromyalgia. Typical drugs administered in case of Lupus include the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also administered for patients of Fibromyalgia sometimes), antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids, as well as immune suppressants.

3- Sleep Apnea. The symptoms of this disease can sometimes overlap almost completely on those of Fibromyalgia. They include insomnia, restlessness, feeling tired regardless of the hours slept, very noisy snoring or gasping during the sleep, going to the bathroom very frequently, headaches (especially in the mornings), moodiness, general state of depression and irritability, dry mouth and sore throat in the morning, cognitive issues related to remembering things or the power of concentration.

In addition to these though, Fibromyalgia may show other symptoms, such as joint pain, irritable bowel and so on. Furthermore, there is a significant difference between the causes of sleep apnea (which are clearly determined) and the potential causes of Fibromyalgia. In the case of the first, the responsible for the development of the medical condition are the back throat muscle and their level of relaxation. Diagnosing correctly is essential, as in the case of sleep apnea treatment may include various intrusive methods, such as surgery, for example.

4- Hypothyroidism. This particular medical condition can be associated with a series of other diseases, disorders and factors, including severe iodine deficiency, pituitary disease, hypothalamic disease, radioactive iodine, certain types of surgery or medicine taken by the patient.

Its symptoms include constipation, hoarseness, depression, impaired memory, high level of cholesterol in the blood, dry skin, weight gain, sensitivity to low temperatures and irregular menstrual periods. Sometimes, Fibromyalgia patients are improperly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism because they actually show most of these symptoms and because hypothyroidism overlaps on their initial syndrome.

5- Lyme Disease. This disease is tricky in itself, because it mainly “hides” under the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, it is caused by a completely different thing: a tick. The symptoms can worsen so much over time that it can lead to temporary paralysis. Since its first signs are very similar to those of the Rheumatoid Arthritis and this latter disease is, in its turn, very similar to Fibromyalgia, cases of misdiagnosis like this are quite often.

6- Depression. As mentioned before, Fibromyalgia has long been mistaken with Depression and cases of such misdiagnoses still exist. The relationship between Fibromyalgia and Depression are still confusing though. While it is clear that they are not one and the same thing, it is not very clear whether Depression is a symptom or a potential cause that leads to the development of Fibromyalgia. The latter theory is most of the times related to those researches that claim that Fibromyalgia is caused by neuro-chemical unbalances.

In most of the cases of misdiagnosis, the treatment can have common points, as it was already shown in some of the examples mentioned above. However, misdiagnosing means that the patient will not be treated for his/her real affection and that many of his/her Fibromyalgia symptoms may remain untreated. Furthermore, some types treatment may affect the patient’s condition even worse, if it is not properly administered.

Correctly evaluating your symptoms and answering honestly to the doctor’s inquiries when you go to check yourself out are essential. Misleading the doctor’s diagnosis process may have further repercussions you most likely don’t have, especially if the doctor chooses not to investigate in certain directions.

Misdiagnosing Fibromyalgia is a never ending story precisely because of its relatively unknown features. Symptoms that may appear to one patient may not appear to another one, and sometimes even the medical conditions with which Fibromyalgia can be mistaken are confusing, which makes the entire process very difficult. If you show symptoms such as those mentioned above, prepare yourself for a lot of tests, questions and examinations and be ready to have to change your entire life style.